Sky Beaten By Oxford University Students Over TV Costs

David And Goliath

Students are celebrating a victory over broadcasting giant Sky after boycotting their television subscriptions in protest at the company's "divide and rule" policy and "unfair" costs.

In a battle reminiscent of David's legendary clash with Goliath, Oxford University undergraduates challenged the British Sky Business (BSkyB) over the company's inconsistent and "irregular" rates.

Some of Oxford University's student union (OUSU) common rooms were previously being charged the charity rate, which is around £1,000 a year, while others had to foot the full rate of £6,000 per annum.

As a result, some Oxford colleges were forced to opt out of having Sky as they could not afford the fees. James Raynor, OUSU's common room support officer, decided to organise a boycott of nine of the common rooms in order to make Sky sit up and take notice.

Far from being ignored, the students' efforts led to an agreement between Sky Business and OUSU, student paper the Cherwell reported. The new deal, which students have been pursuing for more than a year, will see the university's union save more than £300,000.

Raynor said he had been tackling the problem for the duration of his time at the OUSU. "Getting the result we wanted and saving hundreds of thousands of pounds for Oxford colleges was really fantastic news," he said. "We made the decision to step things up a little as my time as support officer was drawing to an end.

"It felt especially good considering how long this has been on the agenda for common rooms. I'd like to thank the common room presidents and bursars in particular for their help."

Oxford is a "federal university", meaning each college has its own mini student unions, known as common rooms. The OUSU exists as the pan-university SU for all Oxford students, regardless of which college they belong to.

There has been a disagreement as to who is responsible for the success of the Sky deal. Anthony Breach, joint treasurer at St Hugh's College, told the Huffington Post UK the OUCU "completely failed" to represent the colleges unions, known as junior common rooms (JCR).

"Allegedly, [the OUCU] have been working on this for a year - not once did the JCR Committee hear a peep from OUSU on the issue, and it took until St. Hugh's introduced and led the boycott, with welcome assistance from OUSU, for real change to occur.

"Sky exploited the federal nature of the university, and implemented a divide and rule policy which allowed them to force business rates upon the individual colleges.

"That OUSU is patting itself on the back ignores both serious failings in OUSU's policies throughout the year, as well as the actions of others who worked with OUSU to get a better deal for students."

OUSU president David J Townsend added: "I'm proud that James has worked with common rooms and Colleges to build and deploy this boycott, and that we've achieved such a massive saving across the University.

"This is proof that OUSU can do what no individual common room can do on its own: deliver a huge win for everyone. OUSU has solved in about 10 days a problem that has been going back and forth for the best part of 10 years."

The students' victory is not the first time Sky has been pressured into submission by an individual.

In 2011, pub landlady Karen Murphy won the right to use a foreign decoder to show Premier League football in a landmark case decided by the European Court of Justice.

Sky has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.


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